Clinicians claim that myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are a primary cause of pain in whiplash injured patients. Pain from MTrPs is often treated by needling, with or without injection. We conducted a placebo controlled study to test the feasibility of a phase III randomised controlled trial investigating the efficacy of MTrP needling in patients with whiplash associated pain. Forty-one patients referred for physiotherapy with a recent whiplash injury, were recruited. Patients were randomised to receive standardised physiotherapy plus either acupuncture or a sham needle control. A trial was judged feasible if: i) the majority of eligible patients were willing to participate; ii) the majority of patients had MTrPs; iii) at least 75% of patients provided completed self-assessment data; iv) no serious adverse events were reported and v) the end of treatment attrition rate was less than 20%. 70% of those patients eligible to participate volunteered to do so; all participants had clinically identified MTrPs; a 100% completion rate was achieved for recorded self-assessment data; no serious adverse events were reported as a result of either intervention; and the end of treatment attrition rate was 17%. A phase III study is both feasible and clinically relevant. This study is currently being planned.
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